We are privileged to sit on the second of two concerts, on 17th May, by Mitsui Uchida and Mark Padmore, as they explore the subtlety of songs from Beethoven and Schubert.
The Wigmore Hall – situated just behind Selfridges and in between two of the more upmarket kitchen showrooms – can be easily missed. Unless you are actively looking for its modest but classic entrance, you could be forgiven for walking by, as I have done zillions of times, – without ever knowing it is there, or even why it is there.
And that would be a pity. The Concerts that they host pretty much every evening, are a beacon of excellence, bringing to the general public, outstanding chamber music individual talent. Up-coming future stars rub shoulders with established names who are only to pleased to be on their list of “residents”.
And so it is with this “discussion” of Lieder songs. It is almost seminar in its approach and educated style. You don’t go to Wigmore Hall is you want a night out with your mates. You go almost to be educated. There are pages of Lecture Notes so to say, already neatly printed out, for you to collect, for free. It’s just that, the audience are already educated. They mill about in the modern very friendly bar, they meet their friends, they congregate in the street during the interval, eating ice cream, they exchange discussional points;
“I do think the way he did that recording was better”… and people smile and laugh.
They are still talking and smiling across the rows of nice seats, even when the House Manager announces the concert starting. It is a mix of a club for people with like minds, and my old university days where I knew the topic would be on a bigger level. Except that I used to fall asleep in those days, the girl next to me would nudge me and wake me up if I was ever asked a question. There was no chance of falling asleep in this concert, and no girl sitting next to me. I didn’t know the person sitting next to me.
If there is a misnomer, it is that the singer would be leading this concert, the accompanist doing, well, I guess, accompanying. In fact this was almost the reverse. Mark Padmore’s lyrical expression was being driven by the constant subtlety and change of direction by Mitsuko Uchida, who herself was singing silently along as she played. She controlled the narrative. Even from the start – the hesitation at the beginning, the wiping her hands on her handkerchief – before launching into the first song – it was her pressure that was pushing the recitative in the vocal line.
As an opera freak, this sort of singing was for me, a different experience, and a different audience. Whereas perhaps in say a Jazz concert we are part of the musical expression, the intimacy that is created – this concert was a recognition that we are not part of it, we are voyeurs. And we are lucky to do so, and to be there.
It is well into 30 minutes before Mark Padmore stops and talks about the philosophy of the words he is expressing – he talks about the sentiment of “being exiled from your home country” – how poignant. There is a feeling of shyness as the two of them take their applause.
I have to leave to catch my train, I gently avoid the audience who are still milling and discussing with their friends. Perhaps it is a night out with your mates after all.